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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name


First Advisor

Alina Cherry


This dissertation addresses the different manifestations of social exclusion as represented in four contemporary French novels: La Place by Annie Ernaux (1980 A

Man’s Place), Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras (1958), Les Choses by Georges Perec (1965 Things), and Trois femmes puissantes by Marie NDiaye (2009 Three Strong Women). Throughout the years we notice the shifting focus of exclusion, as certain categories become more or less integrated into the mainstream of society. Thus we see that the mechanisms of exclusion as well as the members of society who are targeted reflect the values of the times. The characters in the four novels experience marginalization because of their social position, their gender, and their ethnicity.

In this study, exclusion is examined from a socioeconomic point of view as well as from a psychological perspective. We begin by analyzing the social context in each novel, and proceed to explain the more personal effects of marginalization, such as the abject and the unspeakable. One of the objectives of this study is to demonstrate the universality of exclusion; the four texts examined originate from different time periods and social settings and yet the various characters all experience exclusion in a similar fashion. In conclusion we raise the question of the possibility of overcoming exclusion: have any of the characters in the four novels managed to achieve this goal? We answer that although it is possible to work through exclusion and arrive at a better social position, it is quite rare, and when one character, in this case Annie Ernaux, manages to transcend the barriers of class and become part of the bourgeoisie, she is not necessarily any happier. The characters in the texts of Duras, Perec and NDiaye are even less successful in this endeavor. Although they may gain understanding of their marginalization, they are unable to free themselves from the exclusion that appears almost baked into the socioéconomique structures of the diegetic worlds they inhabit.

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